Tuesday, December 16, 2008


So, I did find a news piece during my Hotdogger writing last week that announces the introduction of the Simpson's-coined phrase, "meh" into the Collins English Dictionary 30th anniversary edition.

The greatest part about this news piece is that it actually explains "meh" purely by its existence.

Let me clarify. If any dictionary I've ever heard of added meh to its lexicon, I would be impressed. If meh were recognized as a word by, say, the OED, or even Merriam-Webster, that might warrant more than just an expression of indifference or boredom.

I s'pose these are all media stunts by dictionary PR people... (dictionary PR people... interesting... meh.) but at least Merriam-Webster has some national clout. They are the ones responsible for determining the word of the year, after all - which was w00t last year.

Merriam-Webster creates a list of the 10 most popular words of the year... new words enter the lexicon when MW editors "read and mark" news sources to find new words, define them, and track their usage. If a word looks like its starting to catch on in popular vocabulary, then editors consider adding the word into the MW lexicon.

The top 10 are voted upon by MW.com web visitors and aren't necessarily included into the official dictionary - (like w00t or facebook) but others are already part of the english language... like terrorist, or insurgent.

Sure, it's gimmicky, but I really like their top 10s - they're like a barometer for the national mood of each year.

The lists for the past few years really are interesting. For example, in addition to w00t, 2007 featured conundrum, hypocrite and charlatan. Hmmm, time for another election, perhaps?

2006 highlighted more war words - insurgent, terrorist, vendetta, sectarian, quagmire and war were all chosen by MW.com voters. On a lighter note, voters selected the Colbert-coined truthiness and google as a verb. (Gah, these voters are late adopters...)

2005 was the year of the natural disaster - top words included refugee, contempt, pandemic, tsunami, levee and inept (cough, FEMA, cough). The top word of '05 was integrity. Interesting.

I like how these top 10 lists are a a retrospective of their years...

Wonder what 2008 will bring - I'll bet on a few:
  • recession
  • depression
  • downturn
  • economy
  • hope
  • change
  • joe six pack
  • main street
I wonder when we'll ever get a nice, happy year again. There hasn't been one for a while... but I like hope and change. They would have sounded so lame and Pollyanna a few years ago, but by now we're all so sick of this we're ready for some optimism. Anyone else? Guesses for 2008?

I love words, but sometimes the best descriptor is not disgusted or fatigued or even desperate. Sometimes a simple meh best describes how over the state of everything we are. And a word like w00t describes how ready we are for something new.

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